Elizabeth I (HBO, Part I premières Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. ET; Part 2 premieres Monday, April 24 at 8 p.m. EDT)
Playing princess may sound like fun, but being queen is a lot of hard work. And, boy, is it lonely at the top, perhaps never shown so well on TV as HBO does in this four-hour miniseries. Starring Helen Mirren as the Virgin Queen, the two-night saga focuses on the British ruler in her prime and, most specifically, on her affairs of the heart. Succession is the pressing issue for the heirless, single monarch after 20 years on the throne. She must wed royalty - which rules out her soul mate, the Earl of Leicester, played by Jeremy Irons, as well as his stepson, the Earl of Essex, who steps into Leicester's place in the queen's heart upon the earl's death. Mirren is TV-biography magic as the harried queen who, while not bemoaning her romantic fate, manages to defeat the Spanish and cement Protestantism in England against a circle of Catholic enemies.